HEC: The Higher Education Commission reviewed 293 PhD programmes and 57 MPhil programmes of 171 universities last year, of which 31 PhD and 26 MPhil programmes were shut down as they did not fulfil minimum quality standards, HEC officials told The News on Wednesday.

Sharing the performance of the HEC in 2016, the officials said the commission had also received 198 plagiarism complaints since 2006, of which 160 cases were finalised; 90 complaints proved to be false, and 38 faculty members were blacklisted. About 38 cases are under process and six cases are subjudice.

The officials said pursuing the HEC policy of no compromise on quality and governance of higher education institutions, the commission took many new steps last year to strengthen the countrys higher education sector.

They said last year the HEC had launched the first phase of establishing sub-campuses of different universities and degree awarding institutions in 31 districts of Pakistan.

The project aims at opening 16 campuses of public sector universities in those districts which have the potential intake of 1,000 to 1,500 students in addition to setting up campuses of the Virtual University in districts where the population is relatively thin. The second phase of the project will cover another 35 districts.

Fifteen Virtual University sub-campuses will be set up including two in Gilgit-Baltistan, one in FATA, five in Balochistan, one in KPK, four in Punjab and two in Sindh.

The officials also said last year, the commission had inaugurated the Cloud Data Centre to facilitate universities in becoming part of the world-class research environment. The building of the Centre has been donated by Huawei Technologies.

The Centre is meant for improving productivity, enhancing business processes, and accelerating change. The HECs Cloud services aim at increasing efficiency, productivity and collaboration between the universities of Pakistan and reduce costs by using an optimised IT infrastructure.

The officials said this data centre provided services including virtual data centres, virtual desktop infrastructure, safe campus central solution and central surveillance, unified communication and shared services, storage, and training.

Besides, the HEC launched the countrys first government testing body for education sector named Education Testing Council (ETC) to conduct free, standardised tests for university admissions.

The ETC will conduct test free of cost for all students desirous of taking admission in public and private universities. It will be held twice a year and its results will be valid for two years.

The sub-campuses being established in this phase include the Karakoram International University, Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan; the University of Poonch, Forward Kahuta, Azad Jammu and Kashmir; the University of Balochistan, Pishin, Balochistan; the University of Balochistan, Quetta, Dera Murad Jamali, Balochistan; the Lasbela University of Agriculture Water and Marine Sciences, Uthal, Balochistan; the Sardar Bahudar Khan Women University, Naushki, Balochistan; the University of Hazara, Battagram, Khyber Pakhtunkha; the University of Swat, Shangla, Khyber Pakhtunkha; the Gomal University, Tank, Khyber Pakhtunkha; the Kohat University of Science and Technology, Hangu; the Shah Abdul Latif University, Ghotki and Shahdadkot, Sindh; the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University, Sanghar; the IBA, Kashmore; the Sindh Agriculture University, Umerkot; and the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jacobabad.

In 2016, Pakistan emerged as a country with the highest percentage of highly cited papers as compared to Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). A report titled “Pakistan: Another BRIC in the Wall” issued by Thomson Reuters stated that though Pakistans RandD environment faced substantial economic challenges, despite this the most influential research was not affected. It reveals that in last decade Pakistans scientific productivity increased by more than four times from 2000 articles in 2006 to more than 9000 articles in 2015.

The officials further said during this period, the number of highly cited papers featuring Pakistan based authors increased tenfold, from nine articles in 2006 to 98 in 2015. The percentage of Pakistani documents cited during 2006 to 2015 was 62.27 percent of the total published documents as against 59.73 percent of the documents published by all BRIC countries.

The percentage of cited documents gives a starting perspective on efficiency of the published documents. In 2012, Pakistans Category Normalized Citation Impact was higher than all of BRIC countries. Also, percentages of documents cited and percentage of highly cited papers are higher.

The officials said the newly formed Technology Development Fund, a project worth Rs2.91 billion, would last five years and cover 200 proposals.

Its priority areas will be IT/computers, micro-electronics, biotechnology, material sciences, telecommunication and robotics.

The fund aims at promoting prototypes for problem-based solutions. The first year target will be 50 joint proposals from university and industry projects.

Apart from various other initiatives for promotion and transfer of technology, the HEC entered into a strategic partnership with Huawei Technologies and signed a document of understanding to enhance collaboration through research and development initiatives aimed towards promoting and encouraging higher education institutions for joint development of technologies in Pakistan. For this purpose, Huawei will assist the HEC to set up its RandD Laboratory in Pakistan.

The officials said with its unflinching commitment to human resource development, the HEC took numerous steps to provide Pakistan with a highly qualified and skilled human capital.

For this purpose, it extended 1036 foreign and indigenous scholarships, over 23,000 need-based scholarships, and 24640 scholarships under the Prime Minister Fee Reimbursement Scheme in addition to the scholarships provided to Pakistani students under various programmes developed as a result of foreign collaboration. The HEC has also been executing the Prime Ministers Laptop Scheme.

The HEC also launched a new faculty development programme costing Rs7.14 billion to provide qualified faculty in universities. Under the project, approved by the ECNEC in December 2016, 2,000 faculty members from public sector universities will be provided with the opportunity to enrol in PhD programmes in local universities.

There will be a provision to spend six month to one year in foreign university for research purposes. During their stay in foreign universities, their research will be jointly supervised by foreign and Pakistan faculty members.

In 2016, the FATA University was made operational and work was started on the University of Gwadar as well as University of Central Asia, Pakistan.

Besides, the number of offices of research, innovation and commercialisation, and business incubation centres has also increased remarkably.

The HEC took valuable initiatives to boost academia-industry linkages so as to turn the country into a knowledge economy and follow the Governments Vision 2025. Likewise, the HEC announced the fifth ranking of the Pakistani higher education institutions with an aim to boost academic and research culture among Pakistani universities, and encourage them to compete at international level.

The ranking was carried out under various categories including engineering and technology, business education, agriculture and veterinary, medical, and arts and design. The major criteria for evaluation of universities were quality assurance, teaching quality, research, finance and facilities, and social integration/ community development.

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